Fury Road- Training To Fight From The Prehistoric To The Present, Part 1
Notorious (and somehow illiterate in a developed Western nation) Irish Traveller Paddy Doherty does little more than speak an unintelligible patois of Hiberno-English, Irish, and German, commit petty crime, and fight.
Humans have fought each other since the dawn of time- we’re a feisty bunch. Like other members of the great ape family, humans have fought to establish their position in the pecking order or to kill, but they’ve also fought for money and glory. Over the years, humans have invented more ways to injure, disfigure, cripple, and maim each other than one could count, ranging in scope and intensity from the on-its-face-ludicrous-but-apparently brutal Russian slap fighting to atomizing each other with nuclear weapons, but they all have one thing in common- inflicting as much pain and damage upon one’s opponent as humanly possible.
If the WSM wanted to get super hardcore, they could always add the knives-strapped-to-the-triceps gambit to the axe hold… I have a feeling there’d be a lot of records broken the first day they used the Enter the 36 Chambers method.
Humans being the apex predators and unrepentant destructive psychotics that we are, have learned over the years that simply practicing technique is not enough when one must stand toe-to-toe with their opponent and attempt to impose their will on them- physical fitness, stamina, and strength are also key elements to victory. As such, just about every style of combat ever developed has a concomitant training program that compliments and enhances it, just like brass knuckles do for a right cross.
Before we jump into strength and conditioning training for fighting, however, I’d like to clue you guys into some badass fighting styles that aren’t often discussed, which is tragic because these styles are more awesome than free strip steak after a record setting workout in the middle of a Slayer pit.
- Bartitsu. This hundred-plus year old hybrid martial art has recently had a resurgence (possibly due to its popularization by the Art of Manliness website) and was mentioned several times in Sherlock Holmes stories. Invented at the turn of the 20th Century by Edward William Barton-Wright, bartitsu was designed as a method of combat for English gentlemen that made use of stupid crap the English dandies of the time carried, like canes and umbrellas. Equal parts jujitsu, schwingen (Swiss folk wrestling consisting mostly of giving your opponent a gnarly wedgie), savate, canne de combat, judo, and boxing.
With that out of the way, onto training to fight, because knowing how to fight isn’t worth a damn if you’re too weak and winded to impose your will on your opponent.
Ancient Greek Pankratiasts
Anyone else miss the old UFC/Vale Tudo rules? They were breath-taking in their brutality and unlike the average snooze-fest UFC puts on these days. Everything permitted except eye gouging, fishhooking, and heatbutting, and there were more groin strikes than straight rights thrown in most fights. It was a time when Marco Rua used a foot stomp to win a fight, when people used to break their hands pounding their opponents into bloody hamburger, Wanderlei Silva earned his nickname “The Axe Murderer” for headbutting his way through an entire fight and had the ring looking like a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and dumbass felon Kimo carried a massive cross to the cage. Well, if you were to put much more skilled fighters like you’d see in vale tudo into that cage and less like those you saw in the first couple of UFCs, you’d have the sport pankration, introduced to the Olympics in 673 BC and well known for being the most brutal thing going in the ancient world. It was a sport so goddamned vicious that it enabled the Spartans to slaughter Persians with nothing more than their bare hands, teeth, and shattered lances at Thermopylae, and it made the Greek hoplites into some of the most fearsome fighters in human history.
This Richard Simmons-lookalike, bizarrely enough, is apparently the world’s foremost authority on one of the hardest styles of martial arts ever invented.
Pankration matches were essentially two-man slaughterfests, as crawling away from a fight crippled or dropping dead in the midst of a fight were about as common as crap-filled underwear after a trip to all-you-can-eat Indian restaurants. Pankratists weren’t simply more vicious than a rabid dog with its nuts caught in a mousetrap, either- they were insanely strong, and many could kick straight through a 16 lb bronze and oak aspis (hoplite shield). Given that this shield essentially turned the hoplite into a tank, kicking through one was no small feat, and receiving a kick with that kind of force would be like getting kicked by Ricky Oh- your spine would explode out of your back and bone shrapnel would kill everyone nearby.
Secure in the knowledge that in order to be bone-shatteringly strong, the hyperviolent death machines of ancient Greece heaved around some weights in addition to training techniques and sparring balls out for hours a day. Stone lifting and throwing were two of the favorite strength tests and methods for building the type of strength that would allow them to snap limbs even as they were being strangled to death, ancient Greek fighters, as was the use of proto-dumbbells called halteres. Additionally, they spent a hell of a lot of time stretching, running, shadowboxing, and training their midsections of rhte aforementioned Super Saiyan nuclear kicks they’d be receiving. For the latter, they had a method worth mentioning because it deserves to be featured in Rocky 48- they would strike a punching bag as hard as possible, then tense their body for impact as the rebounding bag would slam into them like a 19 ton truck into a crowd of unsuspecting Europeans (Nurse). Compounding that would be the events of their daily lives, which often included military training and hard physical labor. To develop their strength even further, the athletes of ancient Greece would run at the end of the day and perform rigorous bodyweight exercises to transform their bodies even further into unstoppable, Terminator-esque death machines… which they then used to conquer the known world and defeat the largest army ever assembled to that point (Brown).
I’ve written an entire series about how the Indians trained and dieted to become some of the most badass wrestlers and strongmen in the world from the dawn of recorded history until the British ripped their balls off and fed them to the Indians like some goddamned kobayashi. Rather than rehash it, I’ll just link it: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. That might be the most comprehensive analysis of badass, old school, sweat-your-balls-off-and-eat-ghee-like-you’re-getting-paid-to Indian pehlwan training ever written. Matt Furey’s got nothing on me. You’re welcome.
If you want the TLDR version, you need look no further than the epic Indian wrestling badass, a man so goddamned tough that wrestling him was akin to attempting to beat up King Kong while afflicted with turf toe, gingivitis, and full-blownsies AIDS- the Great Gama. Gama was jacked, especially for turn of the 20th century and a region now known for spindly limbs and potbellies. Born in the Punjab in 1878, this one-man-wrecking-crew of mustachioed wrestling glory came to prominence in his very first public match at age 17, in which he fought a literal giant with enough wins under his belt to make Goldberg’s record look less fanciful. Though the match ended in a draw, Gama defeated him in a rematch and was then touted as the next champion and proceeded to lay waste to everyone in India except the Indian champion.
After a quick trip to Europe to trash all of the wrestlers on the continent (his first match was against Benjamin Roller, who had defeated Farmer Burns and Ed “the Strangler” Lewis among others, and Gama pinned Roller in a minute forty), defeated 12 wrestlers in a single day, won a forfeit by legendary strongman and 2-time world champion Stanislaus Zbysko (whom he later beat in under a minute), and then returned to India to mangle the World Champion there. By the time he was 48, Gama held the belt for the World Champion in the United States and India, and retired having fought to a couple of draws but never having been defeated, even when he wrestled over a dozen men in a single day. Among his victories, Gama counted wins over strongman, Olympic Weightlifter and strongman Maurice Deriaz (who once defeated 44 opponents in a single wrestling tournament), ripped Swiss champion and all-around badass Johan Lemm, a bunch of judo and jujitsu practitioners, and the greatest wrestlers (and some of the largest humans on the planet) in India.
Undefeated for over 50 years, the Great Gama was renowned for his strength and even fitness fanatic Bruce Lee was reportedly a rabid fanboy of Gama’s workout routine. When I say renowned, I mean he was Mountain-from-GoT-strong. At one point, Gama allegedly lifted a 2.5 foot tall stone weighing 2645 pounds in a bear hug, and his even the strongest of the European strongman wrestlers claimed the Great Gama was the strongest man they had ever faced. Gama was strong in the way a tyrannosaur was strong- his levels of strength and strength endurance seem hardly possible. Gama performed 5000 Hindu squats per day, many of them while wearing a 200 lb stone donut around his neck (still on display in the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, India), and did 3000 pushups a day, in addition to hours of wrestling practice and clubbell work. To fuel these lunacy-tinged training days, Gama reportedly drank two gallons of milk and ate one and a half pounds of crushed almonds a day. In short, he trained like his hair was on fire and his ass was catching and ate his goddamn face off, and in the end his win-loss record reflected his insane work ethic and gargantuan appetite.
Up next, more wacky and wild martial arts, plus catch-as-catch can / no holds barred training and the strength training methods of karateka. Additionally, I’ll be publishing a “Chaos and Pain Reads It So You Don’t Have To” article summarizing the best of what training magazines have to offer these days, and then the conclusion to the fight training series, which will feature the training methods of boxers throughout the ages, the training methods of judoka, and whatever else I decide to throw in there. Until then, get your ass in the gym and do something epic.
Brown, Eric. Ancient Greek athletic training. Livestrong. 11 Sep 2017. Web. 24 Sep 2017. http://www.livestrong.com/article/349071-ancient-greek-athletic-training/
Dileep, Srikanth. A forgotten wrestling legend: Perhaps the greatest of them all. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/124884-a-forgotten-legend-perhaps-the-greatest-of-them-all
The Great Gama. Wikipedia. Web. 11 Oct 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gama
Nurse, Paul McMichael. Pankration: Martial Art of Classical Greece. Fighting Arts. Web. 23 Sep 2017. http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=164